Beautifully moving, Les Miserable will reaffirm your love of the musical if you are already a fan and will move you to tears.
“The World’s Longest Running Musical” has struck gold one again with Tom Hooper bringing it raw emotion to a movie theater audience. Set in 19th century France, Les Mis tells the story of redemption, compassion, love, and courage masterfully on the stage and again on the screen. Although not perfect, the sentimentality of the musical comes across beautifully and makes up for its shortcomings.
Hugh Jackman plays Jeal Valjean, an ex prisoner who breaks his parole and is pursued across the decades by Inspector Javert, portrayed by Russell Crowe. Jackman portrays Valjean with such honesty that at times you don’t want his songs to end. This is evident from the moment “What Have I Done” begins, as Jackman kneels and paces before an altar in tears. Fantine, a factory-worker-turned-prostitute, delivers a heart-wrenching performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” which is artfully enhanced by the tight frame on Hathaway’s face. The close-up is a signature of the film and at times is predictable and repetitive, but that is because it works. The close–ups allow you to see every twitch, quiver, and tear, and when combined with the live singing, it pulls you in more and makes every moment more real.
Fantine (Hathaway) has a daughter named Cosette, who lives with the Thernadier’s played hilariously by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. Yes, Sacha Baron Cohen. Their scene is delightfully funny with all of their dirty thieving, gloriousness. Adult Cosette, played by a wide-eyed Amanda Seyfried, falls in love with Maurius (Eddie Redmayne). Maurius (Redmayne) is a student revolutionary and his big moment comes after he returns to the sight of battle and performs an emotion-filled “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables.” Redmayne and Seyfried’s chemistry is less that palpable, but not entirely lost on the screen, so it isn’t uncomfortably odd to see them together.
The lowest point of the film, which really isn’t a low point, is Javert (Crowe), but not because Crowe doesn’t do a fantastic job, but rather his performances pale in comparison to the heart wrenching solo’s of Valjean (Jackman) and Fantine (Hathaway). Crowe plays a very harsh and inflexible Javert, and we only get glimpses of his complexity during “The Confrontation” and in his final song “Soliloquy.”
Overall, Les Mis is done well and brings one of the world favorite musicals back to the big screen. For those who are wary, set aside your preconceived notions and you will be entertained. It is so worth seeing.